This week, September 9-15, is Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week – an important event on the Aotearoa calendar.
Māori Language Week creates an opportunity to bring awareness to, celebrate and learn te reo Māori, helping to revitalise and strengthen its future as a living, dynamic and rich language.
Jeremy and Melissa Banks are the innovative duo behind Nelson-based Plink Software, a clever business operating in our region.
Plink specialise in creating beautiful kaupapa software that connects Māori to their language and their whakapapa.
Their software utilises modern technology to make it easier and more engaging for people to learn te reo Māori, and access their whakapapa online. Their popular app, Tipu, gamifies and personalises the te reo Māori learning experience. In 2017, Plink were awarded Highly Commended for Tipu in the NZ Innovation Awards in the Innovation in Maori Development category.
Tell us a little about your business journey and how you find operating a software startup in the Nelson Tasman region?
We started Plink Software about four years ago, but the genesis for it really was when our first baby was on the way, which was about fourteen years ago. We really liked the concept of raising bi-lingual tamariki and so started the journey to learn Te Reo Māori.
Jeremy taught himself from a book and his background in software made him realise that technology was particularly well suited to helping with the learning process. And so that’s where the idea for Tipu was conceived. Tipu was our first project and it’s been fantastic to be able to focus purely on kaupapa Māori software for all of our projects. The word Tipu means to grow. We chose it because we view learning Te Reo Māori as a constant and unending journey. Whether your reo is like a fledgling seedling or a seasoned tōtara, come spring time there is new growth.
We relocated Plink from Wellington, our home of 18 years, to Nelson a couple of years ago and it’s been a great move for us. We have an office in The Bridge Street Collective, which has been a fantastic environment to grow a startup business. Jeremy’s whakapapa is to Te Tauihu so it has been good to get closer to some of the mahi that’s happening here, but the biggest motivation really was raising our three daughters where they are mana whenua.
Tell us about Tipu and who is it for?
Tipu is an app that helps learn Te Reo Māori. It focuses on teaching the structures more than words or phrases, so when you learn how to say “I’m going to town”, you understand how to vary it to say “I’m going to work” or “I’m going to school”.
It’s available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play and since we released it 3 years ago, it has taught a new word or sentence, every two and a half minutes of every hour, of every day. That’s more than half a million words. Tipu is for anyone that has an interest in learning Te Reo Māori. We have over sixty five thousand users and they come from all around the world.
What do you think organisations could be doing more of to promote revitalisation of the Māori language?
It’s all about normalisation. Air New Zealand started saying kia ora to everyone a few years ago and it raised a few eyebrows. Now it feels completely normal when they farewell you with “Mā te wā”.
Organisations need to do the same things individuals do when they are learning. Embrace making mistakes, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning. Also just try and be one word or sentence better today than you were yesterday. Also make sure you take the time to look back and recognise the progress you’ve made, rather than always focusing on how far you’ve still got to go.
How can organisations like ours carry the momentum of language learning during Te Wiki o te reo Māori, beyond the week?
Turn those fun initiatives that pop up this week into everyday activities. We also need to recognise the added value that staff with Te Reo Māori provide to our organisations. When we do that learning Te Reo becomes part of so many more conversations, such as branding, communication and individual professional development.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you can share with us?
We have a heap of projects on the go. It’s a really exciting time to be in Māori tech, there are so many fantastic initiatives popping up. We are currently working with schools all over Aotearoa to get Tipu in the hands of tamariki to help with their Te Reo Māori journey, with a particular focus on schools at the top of the south in Te Tauihu o Te Waka ā Māui.
Another application we have created is our Iwi membership and whakapapa software Te Ao Hunga. Te Ao Hunga literally translates to “The Cloud of People” (it’s the same ao from the cloud that’s long and white in Aotearoa) and is a bit of a play on using cloud computing to manage our information about our people. Te Ao Hunga is about putting better tools in the hands of our Iwi organisations, but much more exciting than that, it allows us to explore how we can use technology to fill some of the gaps that exist where our traditional knowledge transfer processes have broken down. Thanks to Te Ao Hunga, our cousins in Australia, who are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with their Māoritanga, can login to a safe and protected space to learn their whakapapa.
We are also getting into podcasting which is lots of fun. We would love to see a lot more Te Reo Māori podcasts and so we’ve been working with Che Wilson, who is a language expert amongst a multitude of other skills. Che has been broadcasting very short videos on Facebook for some time now, exploring different Te Reo Māori words. So as a starting point we’ve repackaged his existing content as a podcast. It’s called Che’s Channel and it’s on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
#cleverbusiness in #NelsonTasman